Part 2: Running and Reading

“The keys to life are running and reading. Why running? When you’re out there and you’re running, there’s a little person in your head and that little person say’s ‘Oh I’m tired, my lung’s about to pop, I’m so hurt, I’m so tired, there’s no way I can possibly continue. And you want to quit right? If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life.” This is part of a quote by… Will Smith. While I wouldn’t say that Mr. Smith is the first person we think of as dishing out running wisdom, I think in this case he is spot on.

The worst part about middle school was the Mile Run. Once a month we would line up at a sidewalk starting line, and then huff and puff through the neighborhood. That one mile felt like ten. Luckily my friend Amanda lived down the street from the school, and a quick short-cut through her backyard and across her front lawn quietly turned our Mile Run into the Half-Mile run.

As much as I hated running then, it has become one of my favourite things to do now. Running has obvious positive physical benefits, but for many people it is also important for their mental health. When you run, the chemical norepinephrine becomes more concentrated, allowing the brain to better deal with stress. The endorphins pumping through your body can lift mood and help with symptoms of depression, and running can also help people with anxiety feel calmer and more focused.

Fernie is an amazing place to run. The stunning mountains, forests and river force you to keep your head up and take it all in instead of staring down at the road or trail ahead. In Fernie we are lucky to be able to look out at the landscape and often enjoy seeing nobody else in our line of sight. Living in a place like this can give you a real feeling of inner calmness, even when life is stressful.

When I moved to New York, running went from something I liked to do a few times a week to something I needed to do. It seems that as my proximity to nature decreased, the importance running held in my life increased. Once I moved to New York, I found that occasional anxious days became an almost everyday thing, likely due to the fact that I was always surrounded by hordes of people and noise.

I lived in a tiny one room apartment, and although the roommate from Nashville I shared the cramped space with was wonderful, our beds being a stone’s throw from each other meant being alone was rare. Below my window gravel-voiced construction workers loudly shot the breeze and smoked in the mornings. Sometimes I would be in bed and could hear sounds emanating from an inexplicable 2 am traffic jam, blaring horns and raised voices. Although the multitude of different people, lifestyles and characters everywhere is a beautiful and fascinating part of New York, the chaos was initially very overwhelming. A run usually helped me calm down and stay mellow in the midst of all the craziness.

Contrary to the usual straightforwardness of running, in New York it took a bit of forethought. I had to be out on the sidewalk at 7 am or after 8 pm to miss the crowds, unless I wanted to spend my run dodging people and sweater-wearing pugs. At night I avoided streets with lots of bars, but also ones that weren’t well lit. Certain parks I quickly learned were full of sketchier characters than others at night. Central Park is an awesome place to run but it was far enough away from my apartment that by the time I got there I just wanted to turn around.

Running became an important way for me to deal with anxiety stemming from my surroundings, schoolwork and a crazy schedule. The way running can help with change and mental health represents one of the greatest things about running; it’s so simple but it can mean something different to everyone.